Nothing tells a story better than a picture, and as advertisers have discovered, nothing sells a product more than an edgy photo–even if it is sexist.
Whether it’s a businesswoman in a tight miniskirt and heels, on her back in an alluring pose that seems to have nothing to do with the professional subject matter, or a nude model holding an automotive wrench over her ample frontage, suggestive imagery still sells.
And it sells the wrong message, says Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg. The founder of the women’s advocacy organization Lean In, Sandberg has made it her mission to rebrand the sexist, stereotypical way that she feels women are viewed both in and outside the workplace.
This is part of a series on “The Future of Fair Trade,” written in collaboration with Fair Trade USA. A 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization, Fair Trade USA is the leading third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the United States. To follow along with the rest of the series, click here.
Raul Zambrano, from Ecuador, scoops cacao beans recently dried in a tumbler
By Amy Carniol
It’s Valentine’s Day, and in supermarkets, drug stores and specialty shops across the country, shelves are lined with chocolates of every shape, size and variety. As you browse through endless heart-shaped boxes, consider this: The chocolate industry is in jeopardy, and if things don’t change, there could be a worldwide cocoa deficit by the year 2020.
In a chocolate-obsessed society, it’s hard to fathom ever running out of the sweet treat. How is it even possible that a staple crop like cocoa can be nearing depletion? The answer is surprisingly simple: It’s just not profitable to be a cocoa farmer. According to Oxfam, less than 5 percent of the price of a typical chocolate bar goes back to the cocoa farmers; for many, this translates to an income of only a few dollars a day.
Cocoa farming is an extremely labor-intensive process, and a whopping 90 percent of the worldwide cocoa supply comes from small, family-run farms in West Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. Fragmented and isolated, the 5.6 million cocoa farmers around the world have little to no bargaining power. Most are forced to accept whatever price they’re offered for their crops, regardless of whether they earn a profit or take a loss.
The longtime sustainable business advocacy organization Green America (formerly Co-op America) has just come out with a new report card that could help consumers identify banks that they want to do credit card business with, based on their record of investing — or not investing — in coal-fired power plants and coal mining.
The coal-free credit cards report is timely, given the three-in-a-row coal related disasters that recently polluted the Elk River and Kanawah Creek in West Virginia, and the Dan River in North Carolina, which have drawn national attention to the risks and impacts of coal mining.
Unfortunately, those three episodes are just the tip of a very dirty iceberg.
Clean air, pure water and untainted land are rights that should be enjoyed by every American, at least in theory. As the history of industrial and human development shows, the reality isn’t clear, or just. Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, it’s been the areas where the poorest, politically weakest segments of a population have lived and worked, or those most remote and isolated, that have been the most polluted.
Aiming to address the issue, former President Bill Clinton in 1998 issued Executive Order 12898, “Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations.” Twenty-five years on, President Barack Obama on Feb. 10 issued a proclamation commemorating former President Clinton’s executive order and renewed the federal government’s commitment to assuring environmental justice for all.
Welcome to our series of interviews with leading female CSR practitioners where we are learning about what inspires these women and how they found their way to careers in sustainability. Read the rest of the series here.
TriplePundit: Briefly describe your role and responsibilities, and how many years you have been in the business.
Aman Singh: I am the Editorial Director at CSRwire. I lead content distribution, social media strategy – for clients and our own – CSR/sustainability reporting services and other editorial functions, including managing CSRwire’s commentary section Talkback. I have worked with Fortune 500 companies as well as the country’s leading nonprofits and academic institutions on creating and implementing communication strategies focused on stakeholder engagement and behavior change, including Unilever, Verizon, SAP, ARAMARK, Campbell Soup, Sodexo, EarthShare, Points of Light and others.
I am a student of journalism and started my career right after graduating from high school at Tehelka, a website based out of New Delhi, India, that at that time was known for its investigatory exposes and cutting-edge reporting. Along the way, I’ve worked at myriad outlets including ABC News, The Villager, Downtown Express and The Wall Street Journal. So I’ve been in the “business of writing and editing” for over 15 years. But I turned my focus to CSR and sustainability during the 2008 recession when things were crumbling around us economically and responsibility – both corporate and personal – seemed in short supply. Since then I have written for numerous publications including Forbes, Bloomberg, CNBC, The Vault, Greenbiz, and TriplePundit.
Every Wednesday at 4 p.m. PST / 7 p.m. EST (and every once in a while at other times) TriplePundit will take 30 minutes or so to chat with an interesting leader in the sustainable business movement. These chats are broadcast on our Google+ channel and embedded via YouTube right here on 3p.
On Wednesday, February 12th, TriplePundit’s Founder Nick Aster chatted with Jamie Gauthier, Executive Eirector of the Sustainable Business Network (SBN) of Greater Philadelphia.
SBN strives to support the creation of a sustainable economy where businesses are investors in the quality of life for all citizens – building profitable enterprises that serve community needs, share wealth and protect the environment. For the Greater Philadelphia region, SBN is an effective resource for locally-owned businesses that are committed to improving their environmental and social impacts as well as their profitability. The SBN is a national leader and serves as a model for other cities across the country, embracing the vision of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), the international coalition of sustainable business networks: “Within a generation, we envision a global system of human-scale, interconnected local economies that functions in harmony with local ecosystems, meets the basic needs of all people, supports just and democratic societies, and fosters joyful community life.”
If you missed the conversation, you can watch it now on our YouTube channel, or catch it here:
By: Michael Kobori, Vice President of Sustainability at Levi Strauss & Co.
As a company that’s been helping to pioneer on sustainability for most of our 160-year history, we’re excited to have the opportunity to share some of our learnings through this Sustainable Apparel Series in partnership with Triple Pundit and other brands. Throughout this series we hope to share lessons, provide actionable insights, and examples of progress that help us all to make progress toward a more sustainable planet.
I am often asked how I decide what to focus on within sustainability.
It’s a question everyone seems to have an opinion on. Leading environmental organizations are uniting to focus on what they consider the biggest challenge facing the planet: climate change. Governments can be subject to a revolving door of priorities due to changes in officeholders and public opinion. Companies often choose what they believe their consumers are most interested in.
For us at Levi Strauss & Co., the answer is very clear: We focus on our own biggest impacts and encourage others in the apparel industry to do the same.
Vancouver Pride Parade attendees express their displeasure with Russia’s record on gay rights.
By Susan McPherson and Laura Clise
With the Olympics underway, the world is watching as thousands of athletes from more than 80 countries compete in Sochi, Russia for the pinnacle of international sporting competition. Despite the understandable excitement and anticipation, the games have been somewhat tainted by Russia’s passage last summer of anti-gay legislation.
The controversy has been sustained by objections from athletes, activists, governments and citizens from around the world — resulting in criticism of the Putin regime, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and corporate sponsors. As the world and public opinion continue to move toward equality, the implications present an evolving challenge for corporate sponsors to determine their responsibility and the appropriate course of action regarding the alignment of internal commitments to diversity with their role as Olympic sponsor.
As Sochi Olympic sponsors, Coca-Cola and McDonalds have experienced criticism over the past several months, as backlash against the anti-LGBT laws in Russia and frustration with the IOC have brought activists and consumers to their physical and cyber doorsteps. With citizen demonstrations, calls for product boycotts and hashtag hijacking, sponsors are put in the position to defend rather than celebrate their association with the Olympic Games.
We’ve all heard the saying that oil and water don’t mix, but now it turns out that oil-free cars, namely EVs, and snow don’t mix that well either. There have been many reports over the years that hybrids, like the Prius, don’t do very well in the snow. The claims are hotly challenged by loyal Prius owners with the debate ranging from “this car is really junk in the snow,” to “I have no issues with it in the snow,” to “all Prius owners need in winter is a good set of winter tires.”
Green Car Reports describes the issue in terms of how the traction control system operates.
The traction control sometimes works against the owner in icy conditions. The purpose of the system is to prevent wheel slip and loss of traction, but because electric motors provide maximum torque from 0 rpm, on slippery roads the wheels spin easily–whereupon the traction control promptly brakes the spinning wheel. The result, is halting acceleration with beeping from the skid alert.
Refinements in more recent models have improved the situation.
But alongside the debate about handling is the added question of fuel economy. Hybrids don’t do as well in winter for reasons ranging from modified winter gasoline formulations, to increased stationary warm-up time, to increased heater usage, to reduced battery performance in cold weather.
A recent report in MIT Technology Review claims that the situation gets even worse when moving from hybrids to all-electrics.
Workers installing solar panels on top of a WalMart in Mountain View, California.
As solar photovoltaic technology sees greater efficiency and declining levelized costs, rivaling coal, demand for solar is rising and so are the jobs. Solar industry jobs are surging throughout the United States, according to the independent nonprofit research and educational organization the Solar Foundation (TSF). Record job growth in the industry over the last year is putting people to work in communities in every region, including some unexpected ones, depending on what one expects.
For example, in the Midwest, a place some folks might believe to be too cold and cloudy for solar, the industry has seen a doubling of solar jobs since TSF last reported its numbers. Heck, the solar panel I have on my garage in Michigan puts out more wattage than it’s rated for on a sunny winter day due to increased efficiency in colder weather. There’s enormous solar potential in the Midwest, rivaling Germany in the availability of good sun…yet Germany leads the world in solar investment.
Also, Georgia, Texas, North Carolina and Louisiana combined, which some folks may consider politically hostile to renewable energy, account for nearly a quarter of solar industry job creation nationwide. If it’s a good investment, and it is, practicality tends to speak louder than philosophy.
Living in rural Fresno County these days means reading about the drought in the local newspaper every day, seeing reports about it on the local news and praying for rain. The Fresno area is smack dab in the middle of California’s fertile San Joaquin Valley. It is considered to be the “agriculture center of the world.” Valley farmers supply many of the nation’s fruit and vegetables. The Valley is also home to cotton, dairy and cattle ranches. As California enters its third year of drought, farmers are hit particularly hard. Lack of water means making tough decisions, and some farmers have to idle acres of land. Some ranchers have to sell off livestock. That will affect the economy of the Valley because farming is the area’s economy.
The drought will also have effects outside of the Valley and the state. Every American may soon see higher food prices at the grocery store. Paying more for food will be hard for many, as Americans are used to lower food prices. A California Farm Water Coalition study found that Americans spend 6.2 percent less for groceries than other high-income countries. As a blog post by CFWC points out, “When water supplies are reduced, then less acres are planted and the economic theory of supply and demand takes over for the consumer’s pocketbook.”
Though you’ll continue to read that electric vehicles have been slow to catch on, the fact is, they are catching on, and they will continue to do so. Whether it be sales of pure electric vehicles, or plug-in hybrid vehicles, the growth of electrified vehicles is necessitating the build-out of public charging infrastructure in cities, workplaces and homes.
We are familiar with the tangible parts of such infrastructure — the electric vehicles themselves, and the physical charging stations they plug into. But to make the whole system work, you need an information technology network to connect the hardware together and manage things such as payments and connectivity to the grid, and for charging site owners, the ability to manage the infrastructure deployed.
That’s where companies like Greenlots come in; a San Francisco-based global provider of open standards-based technology solutions for electric vehicle networks. On Feb. 10, the company introduced its SKY Smart Charging system, which is designed to address the needs of the utilities and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) sectors. It’s a pretty esoteric part of the EV world, so I’ll attempt to explain how it fits together and why it’s significant.
Through this in-depth series, we’ll spend the next four months exploring the environmental and social impact of fashion. We’ll take you through the lifecycle of fashion: from the design phase, through material procurement and product construction in a factory setting. We’ll look at what it means for apparel to be “fair trade.” We’ll also take a peek inside the consumer’s closet and look at how consumer demand influences the industry. Finally, we’ll explore the leading second uses for worn-out garments and the future of the sustainable fashion movement as a whole.
This series comes to you with the support of lead sponsor Levi Strauss & Co., a company we’ve covered many times over the years for their decades of commitment to sustainable apparel. Levi Strauss & Co. takes multi-faceted approach to sustainability, highlighting consumer-focused initiatives like low-impact care tags as well as collections like Water<Less, Waste<Less and Wellthread that are as highly fashionable as they are sustainable.
The apparel manufacturer has also made headlines for their collaborative approach, working with organizations like the Better Cotton Initiative and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition to support the sustainability of the apparel industry as a whole. We’re thrilled that they’ve decided to take the next step by supporting our editorial exploration of the topic.
Citing a potential 40 percent gap between water resources and water needs by 2030, the U.K. based organization Carbon Trust has issued a new report highlighting water risk issues for business with the attention-getting pitch “adapt or die.” Though somewhat alarming, the turn of phrase is timely here in the U.S., where the West Virginia chemical spill in the Elk River and the North Carolina coal ash spill in the Dan River have dramatically illustrated the consequences of lax regulation and fossil fuel dependency.
Rather than dwelling on risks, though, the Carbon Trust report is all about solutions and opportunities, as you can gather by the title “Opportunities in a resource constrained world: How business is rising to the challenge.”
When I spoke with Cisco Systems last week about their latest strategic partnership on smart cities, with AGT international, I asked them how they interface with the non-technical world and how they ensure that they don’t merely produce solutions that are looking for problems. As a former R&D worker in a technology company, I know firsthand how easy it is to look at some cool new technology and imagine how well it might work in an application that we only know a little bit about. You can read what Cisco said here.
But today, I want to talk about an example of where, in a critical, potentially life-saving application, inventors have, according to some, repeatedly failed to come up with an effective solution that can fully meet the wide-ranging demands found in the developing world.
We have written before about the challenges and opportunities surrounding the simple act of cooking in developing nations, where some 20 percent of total energy use comes from preparing daily meals. Most cooking in these areas is done using wood or charcoal, often burned in open fire pits. Millions of people are still using this highly polluting and dangerous method, some using simple cookstoves that are not properly vented. All totaled, cooking causes some 4 million deaths every year, for the lack of a better alternative.
According to a story in the Guardian, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), T. Alexander Aleinikoff, says that despite a steady stream of innovative new stoves being offered, he has yet to see one that fully meets the needs of the population.
“We’re in the situation,” says Aleinikoff, “where everybody and his brother has invented a cookstove and none of them have really worked well for us.”
Santa Barbara: Apr 2 – Apr 4 ECO:nomics The Wall Street Journal’s celebrated ECO:nomics conference brings together global CEOs, top entrepreneurs, investors, policymakers and environmental experts for discussion and debate about the most critical issues. Register here.
San Diego: Apr 24 – Apr 27 Social Venture Network Spring Conference SVN conferences convene and connect influential, innovative business leaders, impact investors and cultural entrepreneurs to create an experience where attendees can share the ideas and resources they need to succeed and grow. Register here.
New York: May 13 – May 14 Shared Value Leadership Summit For business leaders and problem solvers who see exciting market opportunities at the intersection of business goals and societal challenges, the Shared Value Initiative is the leading community shaping research, partnerships, and practices. Register here.
Southern California: May 19 – May 21 Fortune Brainstorm Green As the premier conference on business, sustainability, and green investing, Brainstorm GREEN delivers fresh thinking, actionable solutions, and unparalleled opportunities to build top-level relationships. Register here.
San Diego: Jun 2 – Jun 5 Sustainable Brands 2014 Discover what happens when brand strategists & designers connect with sustainability teams to drive innovation. 20% discount with code NW3pSB14sd. Register here.
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